“AS A TEENAGER, I WANTED to ride more than anything, and most people believe that this is the only way that they can connect with horses. I used conventional methods, which I wouldn’t dream of now. If you put a metal bit in the mouth of a dog, it would be reported as cruelty, but it isn’t questioned with horses. They are subject to bits, whips, spurs, slaps, shouts as the norm. After a career in fashion journalism, I learned about the styles of horse whispering and trained as a Reiki Master. I developed my own techniques, then went to Australia with my husband where we worked on a cattle ranch specialising in natural horsemanship. On our return, we took on two rescue horses and set about rehabilitating them on a piece of conservation land which was largely untouched. I ride, but without a bit. I call it holistic riding and I use the whole of my body and mind to open my awareness and connect with the horse.
Now four-strong, the Natural With Horses herd are barefoot – no metal shoes – and live outside all year – they don’t do stables. They forage on native grasses and have supplements of organic seed mixes and herbs. They are sugar free and gluten free. They have access to sunlight, fresh air and, most importantly, movement and socialisation. When in a herd environment – rather than being kept isolated in stables – they learn from each other and this enriches their ability to teach others.
Equine facilitated learning, natural horsemanship, and bit-less riding are popular in America and Europe is fast catching up. Many of our clients remark that many therapists have failed them, but equine facilitated learning (EponaQuest) has had instant and life-changing results. I’m not a therapist; I teach people tools with the horses. It’s not a fix-all, but you can take the tools and apply them to everyday situations. It gives your emotional ‘muscles’ a work out. You learn to become emotionally agile, discover how to set healthy boundaries, have difficult conversations, learn how to manage your personal power and energy fields. I teach holistic horse whispering – we learn how to breathe to start and stop a horse. We learn about body positioning and our body rhythm in order to have a ‘conversation’ with the horse. It’s really empowering to see how a horse responds. Horses don’t judge, which is why they are incredible teachers. I also teach Equine Reiki and Shamanic Horse Wisdom; we gather around the fire pit and the horses join our circle for herbal smudging, drumming and journeying. When we’re around horses, we release more serotonin and oxytocin. Children are reminded to use their gut instincts, and feel from the inside. They have a safe place to be themselves – to be authentic with horses. They often find it easier to communicate with the horses than humans, and reveal to the horses things they struggle to put into words. The horses respond to them gently – they might teach patience or determination. They help guide them in a clear and honest way. With our herd, children learn confidence and responsibility. They are not judged. They learn to care for horses in a natural setting that’s not pressurised or demanding, and, like horses, children are very good at being in the moment. It’s more empowering if a child works an exercise with a horse and the horse points out nuggets of learning and opportunities for growth, than being told by an adult. Horses can be patient as well as playful which appeals to children, and provide a non-biased sounding board for parents to observe and support their children further. I might guide and structure the sessions, but the horses facilitate them.”
READ: The Tao of Equus by Linda Kohanov